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Friday, May 27, 2016

Donald Trump Reaches a Majority (Sort Of)

Donald Trump now has 1238 delegates supporting him at the Convention, one more than the 1237 needed for an absolute majority.

Although Trump was not expected to reach this number until June 7 when the next Republican primary elections are held, he was able to get over the top a little early.  Trump still does not have enough pledged delegates for a majority, but several States are sending unpledged delegates.  Trump was able to get enough of those unpledged delegates to announce publicly that they would vote for Trump at the Convention to put him over the top.

Theoretically, these delegates are not bound by their promise and could change their minds at any time.  The reality though is that Trump will receive enough pledged delegates on June 7 when California, New Jersey, and a few other States hold their primary elections. Getting these delegates to announce early just created a media story a few weeks early that continues the message that Trump is the winner.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The VP Game - Democrat Edition

Hillary Clinton's choice of a Vice Presidential running mate has the ability to capture the news cycle for a day or two, but probably little else.  Traditionally, VP choices can only harm a ticket when an overlooked skeleton in the closet comes out about the candidate, or the candidate just withers away in the spotlight or start staying just incredibly stupid things. Traditionally, those have been Republican problems.  Democratic VP choices typically know how to shut up, stand there and smile.

This is the first major decision a potential president must make, so it always raises interest as a test of the candidate's judgment.  Also, since both of our candidates are already well beyond normal retirement age, there is no guarantee they will live through their term of office.  Let's take a look at who may be under consideration:

Former Opponents

No, Hillary is not going to tap Bernie Sanders to run with her.  Yet, it would help unite the progressive left behind her candidacy, but Sanders is not one to shut up and smile.  I don't think he would have much interest in standing there silently for four years when he could be screaming and shouting about issues it he Senate.  Even if Clinton wanted him, Sanders is not one to do it out of party loyalty, since he really only joined the Democratic Party to run for President.  He has been an independent for virtually all of his political career.  Sanders also has way too much baggage.  His support for increased taxes on everyone, for support of various Communist governments in the 1980's, and his outspoken support for a range of unpopular leftist issues would be too much of a feast for the Republican political advertisers.  Clinton would never want that distraction.

Remember way back that the beginning of the race when Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and Lawrence Lessig were running?  Neither does anyone else.  None of them ever caught on with anyone and are not likely to get much consideration for the VP slot.

Senators: 

Clinton is less likely to pick a Washington insider since she has been an insider herself for the last quarter century.  The Senate is the most common place for any candidate to pick a running mate.  In a year when voters seem particularly anti-Washington, this would seem like a bad choice on a political level.  If she does pick someone from Washington, it will likely be someone young who has only been in town for less than a decade.

Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, has gotten a fair amount of press speculation for VP.  Brown has a relatively solid moderate record for a Democrat.   He tends to favor protectionism and has supported legislation to reign in Wall Street.  That could help him with Sanders supporters, although it may play as a contrast with Clinton's record.  No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio, so anything Clinton can do to help her chances there probably makes sense.

Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia, and a former Governor, is not much of an insider, but does come from what is now an important swing State.  He would be a relatively bland and safe choice.  His selection would not excite the progressive left, but would not scare off moderates or anti-Trump Republicans either.

Mark Warner, the other Senator from Virginia, and also a former Governor.  At age 60, he does not have the youth of many others under consideration, but has won multiple elections in a relatively conservative swing state.  He was seen as a possible Presidential candidate in 2008, although he declined.  He may have done so out of deference to Clinton's run, which would work in his favor now, or because he has skeletons, which would still be an issue for VP.  Assuming no skeletons, he is again a relatively safe moderate choice.

Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey, probably has not been in Washington long enough to be considered a Washington insider.  He tends to be traditionally liberal and from a solid Democrat State.  However, many on the left see him as a Wall Street sell-out.  His selection would not help Clinton with the Sanders supporters.  His liberal policies probably would not help with moderates or anti-Trump Republicans.

Martin Heinrich, Senator from New Mexico, came to the House riding the Obama wave in 2008. He won his Senate seat in 2012.  He holds a fairly traditional liberal Democrat position on most issues, but tries to reach out to Republicans where possible.  He is young, reasonably bright and looks good in a suit.  That's probably enough for consideration.

Evan Bayh, Senator from the very Republican State of Indiana, an impressive feat for any Democrat. He is from the conservative wing of the Democratic party.  His father, Birch Bayh, was also a Senator.  Bayh was seen as a Democrat who could help make inroads into Republican territory, but is considered an intellectual lightweight and without much going for him.  He also has some controversies involving business deals. Clinton has enough of her own business deal controversies without adding more.

Bob Casey, Senator from Pennsylvania, would be an interesting choice.  He is relatively moderate and from a Democratic leaning State that always seems to be in play.  The fact that he is a pro-life Democrat might turn off some, but probably not a deciding factor for voters considering between Trump and Clinton. Abortion aside, Casey seems to follow the Party line on most issues.  His father was once Governor of Pennsylvania, making him appear part of the long time political class that voters seem to dislike this year.

Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota is also someone who has been in Washington for a while, but is probably not considered part of the establishment.  Franken has been a solidly liberal vote for the Democrats in the Senate.  But what probably puts him under consideration is his wit and speaking ability.  Franken became known to the world as a Saturday Night Live Comedian back in the 1980's.  He wrote several satirical books attacking the far right before running for office.  Since elected, Franken has avoided being funny in order to be taken seriously as a Senator.  But he clearly has a quick wit, a liberal mind, and can think on his feet.  This could help prevent Trump from sucking all the media interest and attention from an overly boring Democratic ticket.

Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, is part of the Washington scene, but is still seen as a progressive outsider because of her Wall Street opposition.  Her selection for the ticket would make Sanders supporters happy, but not much of anyone else.  Warren holds very liberal positions on most issues, which may not play well out of Massachusetts.  There is also little evidence that she would want to hold her tongue and stop criticizing Clinton's moves to the right.  Having two women on the ticket may also be a little much for some voters.

While on the subject of female Senators, There are a number of others who may get some consideration: Claire McCaskillJean Shaheen, and Amy Klobuchar.  A two woman ticket seems like an unlikely decision for Clinton, who would want to remain as centrist as possible after the nomination.  Also, with the Senate trying to win back a majority, putting any of these States in play for a new Senator would be seen as a problem.  I don't see any of them as a likely choice.

Cabinet Members

It would be highly unusual to pick a cabinet secretary with little electoral experience.  These folks tend to be untested in the public limelight.  They also tend to be more focused on policy than winning elections.  Often, they are involved in policy decisions that can create political firestorms.  They also tend to associate the campaign with the prior administration.  Nevertheless, several, Obama secretaries seem to be under consideration this year. 

Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was put forward as a possible choice last year.  He is young, of Mexican descent, and has been seen as a rising star in the Party.  Still, he has little electoral experience and is tied to the Obama Administration   Castro was a favorite when Clinton thought she might be facing a Hispanic Cruz or Rubio opponent.  But after Republicans picked a regular white guy as usual, the need for a Hispanic on the ticket seems less important.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture and former Governor of Iowa, briefly ran for President in 2008 before dropping out and endorsing Clinton.  He tends to favor an aggressive foreign policy and did not seem to support the President's decision to leave Iraq.  Secretary of Agriculture usually leaves one out of the controversial issues. He is seen as being too cozy with the agribusiness industries for many of on the left.  The leap from Secretary of Agriculture to Vice President seems like a long one to me.

Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor, former Asst. Attorney General, has spent most of the Obama Administration on civil rights issues.  I figured I would throw him in as long as we are looking at Obama cabinet members, but he seems unlikely as well.  His involvement in investigations of controversial civil rights cases like Trayvon Martin, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and voter ID cases may make him seem like too much of a Democratic partisan.  He is Hispanic, which could be seen as a plus. But lack of any real elected office makes him look more like an Washington Bureaucrat, out of touch with real America.

Governors:

Governors are often seen as chief executives only on a smaller scale. The tend to lack foreign policy experience, but are seen as leaders with political savvy.  In the last 50 years, five of eight Presidents have been Governors (Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43). Two others, Ford and Bush 41, moved up from Vice President.  Only one, Obama, had only legislative experience.  Governors, however, rarely get chosen as VP.  I can think of only one who ran on a ticket in the last 50 years: Spiro Agnew, and that did not go well.

John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado has been discussed.  The state is probably leaning Democrat anyway and is not that large.  Hickenlooper lacks any foreign policy experience.  But since he is balancing out a ticket with a former Secretary of State, that should not be an issue.  The head of the State that is known as the leader in pot legalization would bring that issue to the national scene.  It is probably a winning issue for Democrats, so that may be a positive factor.

Andrew Cuomo Governor of New York is probably an unlikely pick.  Cuomo comes from a political family (his father was Governor and also discussed as a Presidential Candidate).  Polls show voters want to see some different names from the ones they have always seen.  Cuomo is also from the same State as Clinton, usually seen as a problem.  Electors cannot vote for a President and Vice President who are both from their home state.  This means there could be an issue if the New York electors were needed to elect the whole ticket. This could create a problem that would prevent them from voting for the Vice President.

One other woman who could get some consideration is Gina Raimondo, who was elected Governor of Rhode Island in 2014.  She has little record on national issues, being much more focused on State and local issues.  At age 45, she is a generation younger than Clinton, who has had trouble with attracting the votes of younger women.  Even though Raimondo would make it a two woman ticket, the diversity of age may be an attraction.

Out of the Box Picks

Xavier Becerra, a twenty year veteran of the US Congress, from California and House Democratic Caucus Chairman makes Becerra an insider.  He has campaigned heavily for Clinton in the primaries.  He does not have much of a national reputation.  Being Hispanic could be a plus for Clinton.  The fact that he is a practiced politician and known campaigner also work in his favor.  He has taken relatively liberal positions, even for a Democrat, but is not seen as a radical.

Brian Schweitzer, former Governor of Montana, is pretty conservative for a Democrat.  His selection would be a way of appealing to centrists.  He can be rather outspoken and is prone to political stunts.  He would be an interesting choice but is probably a real long shot.

Charlie Crist, former Republican Governor of Florida, turned Democrat.  Crist is from a swing state, but has not been particularly popular there since he changed parties.  He could start a conversation about how the Republicans have gone too far off the mainstream.  That could have appeal for independents and anti-Trump Republicans.  Democrats, however, may pause at having a former Republican that close to running the Democratic Party.

Deval Patrick was Asst. Attorney General during Bill Clinton's administration.  He left to go into private practice before becoming the Governor of Massachusetts nearly a decade later.  As with any Massachusetts Democrat, he has taken quite liberal positions on many issues.  Being an African American may help to keep those voters voting with some enthusiasm, even if not the levels they showed for President Obama.  Patrick also worked for Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's company.  That would certainly raise questions among the anti-Wall Street crowd.  Patrick as VP would not be a pivot to the center as Clinton is expected to make, and would not particularly grab the enthusiasm of Sanders supporters.

Joe Manchin, Senator and former Governor of West Virginia is nominally a Democrat but seems to support the Republicans on a great many issues, including guns and the environment.  He refused to endorse President Obama's reelection in 2012 due to policy differences.  Manchin comes from a conservative State that Clinton likely would still not win.  Manchin would probably be to the right of Trump on many issues and is outspoken enough that he might start more political fires than he extinguishes.  Manchin would also alienate the progressive left.  So while some pundits have put his name on long lists of VP possibilities, he seems a real long shot.

Joe Biden, Vice President now and continuing?  While we are on the subject of real long shots, Joe Biden could continue in the position of VP for another four or eight years.  He is experienced and has not been overly criticized.  There is no term limit on VP as there is for the President.  Biden would tie Clinton more closely to the Obama Administration.  I don't know if that is necessarily a bad thing for voters, but she probably wants to be seen as her own person.  At 72, Biden is also older than all the other candidates and is probably ready for retirement.

Wesley Clark, retired General who has been an active Democrat since retirement, could be an interesting choice.  It could help with voters who think Democrats are weak militarily, something that has long concerned Clinton.  He comes with little political baggage.  At 71, however, Clark is likely going to have his age be an issue, as is his complete lack of political experience.

Conclusion:

It is hard to guess where Clinton is headed with her choice, given the lack of public discussion on the issue.  I would say that Sherrod Brown may be the favorite in this crowded field, but probably would not give him better than five to one odds.  Julian Castro also has received a fair amount of attention. Tim Kaine also makes my list of likely short-listers.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Oregon and Kentucky

Sanders had another night of net gains, while Clinton still moved closer to her inevitable victory in delegates. Sanders defeated Clinton in Oregon by about 10 points saw a virtual tie in Kentucky.  The delegates end up being split almost evenly.

In Oregon, Sanders will collect an estimated 35 pledged delegates to Clinton's 26, for a net gain of 9 pledged delegates.  Of the State's 13 super delegates, 6 have committed to Clinton, 1 to Sanders, and 6 uncommitted.  As a result, Sanders leaves Oregon with 4 more delegates than Clinton, not nearly enough to threaten her lead.

In Kentucky, the popular vote is a virtual tie, though it looks like Clinton will squeak out a narrow victory.  But again, on the Democratic side, a victory gives little more than bragging rights.  Proportional allocation of delegates, means Clinton gets 28 pledged delegates to Sanders' 27.  Of the five super delegates, 2 are supporting Clinton, 2 remain uncommitted, while a fifth super delegate has not yet been chosen.  So overall, Clinton leaves Kentucky with three more delegates than Sanders.

This leaves the night as a virtual stand-off.  If we include super delegates, Sanders closes his gap on Clinton's lead by one whole delegate.

Clinton now has an estimated 2291 in combined pledged delegates and super delegates who have announced support for her. She is now only 92 delegates away from a majority for the Convention.  There are still 946 still available, mostly decided on June 7 when California and New Jersey award delegates.  With only 79 delegates up for grabs before then, June 7 is now definitely the day this will be decided.

At this point, Sanders' only hope is to convince many of the 524 super delegates who have pledged to Clinton to switch over to him.  That seems highly unlikely.  Even if Sanders won all the remaining contests by 60% to 40% AND convinced half of Clinton's super delegates to switch over to him, Clinton would still have a majority.  Otherwise, Sanders would have to win all remaining contests by about 95%.  Even Trump as an unopposed candidate is not hitting those numbers.  Sanders' only hope at this point is some massive game changing event, like Clinton gets indicted or confesses that she is Donald Trump's secret lover, to change the math by such a massive scale.  In short, it is not going to happen.

One the Republican side, there was only one contest yesterday: Oregon.  Trump is now running unchallenged, but still managed to win only 67% of the vote.  Under Oregon's proportional system for delegates, he will get 19 out of 28 delegates, with Cruz getting 5 and Kasich getting 4 (and 1 still undecided).

Trump now has 1160 pledged delegates, 77 short of a majority.  There are still 405 delegates at stake, but only 44 more before the final day of Republican primary voting on June 7.  So Trump also will not secure a majority before that final day. However, given the lack of any active opponents, his victory also seems inevitable.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The VP Game - Republican Edition

About the time pundits get bored with the primaries once a presumptive nominee is selected, attention turns to who the candidate's Vice Presidential selection will be.

Donald Trump has so far stumped both pundits and opponents with his unpredictable behavior. It will be interesting to see if Trump makes a predictable choice for a conventional candidate, or whether he doubles down on the anti-establishment choices that he has made so far.

Former Opponents

One frequent pool of choices would be other primary challengers.  They have often already been vetted by the primary process.  They may have a large contingent of supporters and a ticket would unite the party.  They are often already familiar to voters.

Ben Carson recently leaked the names of five potential VP candidates on Trump's short list.  Four of the five are former primary opponents: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Chris Christie.  The fifth, Sarah, Palin, we'll address in a moment.  All of these choices seem rife with problems.  The primaries this year were rather bitter.  Trump really went after most of these candidates on a personal level.  I suspect this "leak" was deliberate and that none of those on the list are under serious consideration.  In fact, there was just confirmation by Trump who tweeted: "The @washingtonpost report on potential VP candidates is wrong. Marco Rubio and most others mentioned are NOT under consideration." Just for the heck of it though, let's take a look at each one:

Ted Cruz amassed the second largest number of delegates and was the only opponent who posed any serious threat to Trump by Super Tuesday.  Trump attacked Cruz quite bitterly and even went after his wife.  Cruz was also rather hostile about Trump at the end of his campaign, with clear bad blood between the two.  The name "Lyin' Ted" would be thrown around all the time, as would questions about Trump's questioning whether Cruz was even an eligible candidate based on his Canadian birth. All that said, if a Cruz alliance might bring aboard the more doctrinaire conservatives, perhaps the two could put their past aside and make a team.  After all, Reagan and Bush did it, as did Kennedy and Johnson.  Bitter primary rivals can sometimes make it work.  Cruz, however, was never a favorite, even among the establishment.  Many top officials were deeply opposed to Cruz until he became the only Trump alternative.  If Trump wanted a bridge builder, he should look elsewhere.

Marco Rubio was the next largest delegate winner after Cruz, despite dropping out right after Super Tuesday.  Candidates often like to pick someone who offsets a weakness of their own by being a demographic contrast.  Trump is likely to have his old age considered. A youthful candidate like Rubio might be a nice contrast there - think Bush-Quayle.  Rubio is also Hispanic, which is a demographic that is particularly weak for Trump.  Given his public statements there though, it is unlikely that even choosing a Hispanic running mate would help him much with that group.  Cruz, of course, is also Hispanic so there are other options in that demographic too.  Rubio is also from Florida, a critical swing State where Trump is currently polling behind Clinton.  Again though, lots of name calling and bad blood between "Little Marco" and Trump.  Rubio also has a reputation as an intellectual lightweight.  No one wants another Dan Quayle on the team.

John Kasich, has been the candidate most appealing to moderate Republicans.  He is also from the important swing State of Ohio.  Kasich has already said he has no interest in being on a ticket with Trump, but people do change their mind once the reality of the loss has time to settle.  Such an establishment choice though, would probably turn off Trump's hard core supporters more than it would encourage moderates.  Kasich has never been a strong and passionate speaker.  Further, Kasich is a Governor.  Almost all VP choices come from the Senate, or occasionally the House.  The last time a President selected a Governor for an election ticket was when Nixon picked Spiro Agnew.  Sure, Kasich was a longtime Congressman before becoming Governor.  But he has been out of Washington for quite some time and is not a person who could help with the Washington establishment.

Chris Christie is also Governor and has no Congressional experience.  He dropped out of the primaries rather early and never got into the serious bitterness with Trump.  Christie also came out as one of the first former candidates to endorse Trump.  He is from the very Democratic State of New Jersey, not a place generally considered a swing State.  But Trump is under the impression that he can be competitive in New York and New Jersey, so perhaps he thinks Christie might solidify that. Christie has appeared at a number of Trump rallies.  His demeanor though, has been the subject of ridicule.  If Trump ever was considering him, those incidents probably soured him on the idea.

Perhaps even Ben Carson himself is under consideration.  He has gotten on friendly terms with Trump.  He would double down on Trump's outsider image as he also has no government experience.  In the end though, two loose canons would probably be too much for even Mr. Trump.  I would count him out too.

There are still quite a few other primary opponents: Jeb Bush, again is from a swing state and is Mr. establishment.  He would possibly soothe the deep divide with the rest of the Bushes and be a nod to the Washington establishment.  But there is no possible way the two could work together after the deep differences expressed in the primary.  I see no way that could happen.  Other primary candidates include: Rand Paul (too much an outsider in Washington and too different from Trump),  Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (both might help with evangelical voters, but are not exactly power players in Washington), Carly Fiorina (might help with women but Trump won't want Cruz's sloppy seconds), and Jim Gilmore (Governor from Virginia, but never made a blip on the electoral radar).  Quite frankly, I don't see any of them as a realistic option.

Washington Insiders

This is a traditional pool for outsiders to choose from.  The want a powerful experienced hand who are familiar with other Washington leaders and provide entree into the Washington Power Club.

Speaker Paul Ryan might have made an interesting establishment choice, even though he already ran and lost for VP with Trump enemy Mitt Romney.  Ryan has already put as much distance as he possibly can from Trump and has expressed zero interest in being part of any Administration.  This option would never happen.

Newt Gingrich seems to be sniffing around Trump a great deal these days.  He resigned the Speakership more than a decade ago as a relative failure, and highly disliked by most of Washington. He does, however, know people and can perhaps provide some continuity with the last Republican Revolution in the 1990s.  Gingrich, like Trump, can be very persuasive and likes to play fast and loose with the truth.

Jeff Sessions as a twenty year Republican Senator from Alabama is a fairly safe establishment choice. Sessions was one of the first in Congress to back Trump and has been helpful in introducing him to his legislative colleagues.  He is a fairly hard core anti-immigrant conservative, although he was also a big supporter of the Iraq War, something Trump has tried to distance himself from. Sessions had been nominated for a federal judgeship in the 1980's but was rejected due to racist comments he had made while US Attorney for Alabama, probably a positive for most of Trump's hard core supporters.

Bob Corker, a second term Senator from Tennessee and Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee is another possibility.  Corker brings some foreign policy credentials to the ticket.  Corker was also an early fan of the Iraq War and also rather late to the line of Republicans endorsing Trump.  He and Trump have some shared views but would likely have a rather cool and distant relationship.

John Thune, a longtime Congressman, defeated Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle in 2004 to take his Senate seat.  Thune actually went unchallenged six years later.  Thune is a relatively quiet down the line Conservative who would not rock the boat.  He would be a safe, if uninspired choice.  He does not bring any demographic or swing state advantages (from South Dakota).

There are a few other Senators who might be considered, but they fall into my next category:

Women

Running against the first female Democratic nominee would present demographic problems for any candidate.  But Trump's well practiced insensitivity to women makes it a nightmare for his campaign. A recent poll found that only 23% of women hold a positive view of Trump.  If he cannot bring up those numbers, he has got a real problem.  A woman on the ticket with him might help there.

Sara Palin was mentioned in Carson's leaked short list.  But again, that leak seems to be an attempt at misleading folks.  Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and running mate of another Trump enemy John McCain, would be a risky choice.  During the 2008 elections she was a wild card who was seen as an intellectual light weight.  She also could not stay on script and often said things that caused problems for the campaign.  Trump does not need any help doing that.

Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina is not only a well know conservative woman but also covers the non-white demographic.  Haley, however, was a strong Rubio supporter, and seemed to have been angling to be his VP.  She picked the wrong horse.  In any event, she has shown little interest in playing nice with Trump since Rubio left the race.

Joni Ernst is a moderate Senator from Iowa with only two years under her belt.  She is a moderate with soccer mom appeal and is from the critical mid-west.  Her military experience would be a help to Trump. She has been coy about ongoing VP speculation, not really saying whether she would be interested or not.  Refusal to shut the door on such speculation is usually seen as a sign of interest.   Ernst has never had her background picked apart by top of the line opposition research, so it's possible she could have skeletons, or whither under the national spotlight.  On the other hand, she could bring pro-military voters and perhaps some conservative women back to supporting the ticket.

Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma did a stint in Congress before her present gig.  She is a moderate in style but has taken some highly conservative positions on controversial issues.  She is divorced, frowned upon but forgivable by evangelicals who must also forgive Trump for the same sin.  Fallin is not known as a headline grabber or attack dog.  But again, Trump will like do those things himself.

Jan Brewer, former Governor of Arizona is someone Trump himself has suggested is worth a look.  She is an outspoken leader of the anti-immigrant movement and has openly attacked President Obama during a visit to her State.  She has no real Washington experience.  Her lack of a college degree could also be an distracting issue for the ticket. She is a champion of the same folks that gave Trump the nomination.  Choosing her would be seen as doubling down on the folks that made Trump the nominee, not a pivot to the center.  Still, Trump likes to be out of the box on such things.

Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico would be a demographic coup for Trump.  This female Hispanic Governor could possibly help with those two demographic groups where he needs it most. But like many Hispanics and many females, Martinez has been an outspoken opponent of Trump during the primaries.  She has been less outspoken since Trump has become the presumptive nominee, but has shown no real inclination to jump on the Trump train.

Marsha Blackburn, Rep. from Tennessee is relatively unknown to the electorate.  She is a conservative woman with strong pro-life and other conservative credentials.  She might help bring some conservative women back to to ticket.  She also expressed interest in working with Trump even before he became the presumptive nominee.  She would not be seen as someone dragged kicking and screaming onto the Trump train.

Left Field Choices

Trump may decide to go off in a completely different direction from the traditional VP paths.  While these choices would not necessarily help him with the establishment, moderates, or even double down on his base, he may pick someone just to shake things up and get people talking.

James Mattis, a former Marine Corps General with combat and command experience is someone who conservatives have discussed as a third party choice.  Trump could shut down all third party talk on that front by selecting Mattis as a VP.  Although he has no electoral experience, he has an impeccable military record, including service as President Obama's Commander of Central Command.  He would certainly help with pro-military voters and would likely be someone who could obey orders from the President and keep other officials in line.

Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, is not a Washington insider, but has political experience and is from a swing State.  Scott, however, is fairly unpopular in Florida and might not be helpful in shoring up support there.  Scott has supported Trump since Rubio left the race.

Conclusions

There is little point in predicting where Trump may go, since he has been so unpredictable so far. Personally, I think Jeff Sessions might be in play.  I could also see Jan Brewer making the campaign much more interesting.  Trump is unlikely to play it safe or be traditional.  Newt Gingrich is also the sort of kiss ass with top credentials that might appeal to Trump as well.  Those would likely be near the top of any short list.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dilemma of the Republican Establishment

Many Republicans have refused, or at least publicly hesitated, to fall in line behind the presumptive Presidential nominee Donald Trump.   For Republicans especially, this is highly unusual behavior. Republicans know that failure to fall in line behind a nominee only presents a division which would likely hand the White House to the Democrats.

Sure, there remains the concern the Trump is a wild card.  He might end up supporting some liberal positions like raising the minimum wage or raising taxes on the rich.   It is hard to say on any given day what position he might take.  But from a Republican point of view, even that is better than someone who will be consistently liberal.

Republicans have two real concerns about Trump.  One is that he may destroy the Republican brand. Republicans have spent decades establishing that the party stands for certain things such as lower taxes and free trade.  A Trump administration that goes the other direction will make voters question whether the party really still supports such positions.  Trump could contribute negatively to the Republican brand in a second way. Presidents George Bush and his son George W. Bush both had economic recessions under their administrations which were then cleaned up by subsequent Democratic Presidents.  If a third Republican bungles the economy, that will really become a trend in the minds of many voters.  It will reflect negatively on the party going forward.

Second, and more important, is that the Republican leadership still fears that Trump will implode. His predilection for taking outrageous positions or inflaming controversy may turn off voters in the general election.  Republicans further down on the ballot, running for Senate, House, and State offices will be put in an awkward position.  If they have announced support for Trump, they may also suffer at the polls.  They may have to spend too much time explaining why they oppose specific positions or comments from the presidential candidate while still supporting him.

Six years ago, the Republicans in the Senate had a banner year opposing Obama.  As a result, 24 of the 34 Senate seats this year have Republican incumbents, many in swing states that could easily go Democrat.  A massive Trump implosion at the polls could possibly undo all the work Republicans have done establishing a majority in the House and Senate over the last 20 years.

Many think it would be better to reject Trump, separate from him, and try again in four years.  The problem with that, of course, is that Trump represents a large proportion of the Republicans voters, not to mention a great many independents.  Refusal to support Trump could cause those voters not to vote for the Republican candidates further down the ballot.  This poses the same danger to Republican majorities in Congress.

Elected leaders who are also responsible for electing more Republicans to Congress, like Paul Ryan, still have not figured out a good answer to this problem.  Do they back Trump and be prepared to explain where they differ on issues or specific comments? or do they separate themselves from Trump from the very beginning and simply take the position that they do not like either major party candidate?

Retired leaders like the Bushes seem to be taking the latter approach.  But active leaders like Ryan will probably end up in the former camp.  In the end, Republicans must support their nominee or look incredibly weak and divided, and also alienating a large portion of Republican voters.  It remains a difficult year.  Most just want to get through it and look forward to future contests.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sanders Wins West Virginia

Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the West Virginia Primary by roughly 15 points.  It is not enough to stay on pace even to win a majority of pledge delegates, let alone pass Clinton's lead including superdelegates.  Bernie, however, continues to defeat Clinton in virtually every State without a large African American population.

Clinton won West Virginia eight years ago.  Part of that may have been racism against candidate Obama.  Her loss this year may have more to do with her comments about killing coal mining jobs.  It seems odd though since Sanders largely supports the same environmental policies.  I suspect the Sanders win here was more of a protest vote against Clinton.

Whatever the reason, Sanders continues to narrow Clinton's lead, though not enough to change the outcome. Sanders picked up 16 pledged delegates to Clinton's 11.  Just to stay on track pass Clinton in pledged delegates, Sanders would have needed an 18 delegate victory.  This win just makes his requirements even harder for the next race.  Before the race, 6 of the 8 State superdelegates announced support for Clinton.

Interestingly, Clinton also won the vote in Nebraska yesterday by 20 points.  The Democratic Nebraska Primary was widely unreported because it was meaningless.  Voters got the chance to express their preference for Clinton, but no delegates were awarded.  This is what is known as a "beauty contest".  The will of the voters is expressed, but is not considered for delegates.  The State held a caucus two months ago where it awarded 15 delegates to Sanders and 10 to Clinton.  Sanders has been much more effective in getting voters to show up for participation in time consuming caucuses than  he is when there is a simple vote.  That was clearly the case in Nebraska.  Perhaps yesterday's primary results give Nebraska's three super delegates confirmation that their pledge to support Clinton is justified by their voters.

Next week Clinton and Sanders move on to races in Kentucky and Oregon. Liberal Oregon may be a place Sanders can have an even larger win.  But it is increasingly obvious that it will be too little too late.

Trump, now unopposed, also won victories in West Virginia and Nebraska yesterday, garnering another 67 delegates in those two winner take all races.  Despite no active challengers, Trump only won 61% of the vote in Nebraska.  Anti-Trump sentiment remains a substantial challenge for the presumptive nominee.

Trump also faces a primary in Oregon next week, followed by a primary in Washington State the following week.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cinton Wins Guam, Media Yawns

Guam held its contest on Saturday.  I cannot even get agreement from media sources as to whether it was a primary or caucus.  Some news sources called it a primary, others a caucus.  It was listed on the calendars as a primary, but very often, jurisdictions will change to a caucus at the last minute to save money.  A caucus does not have to have all the polling areas open.

According to one source I read, there was only one polling station in all of Guam open for voting.  It was located at the "Agana Shopping Center (2nd Floor)".  Whether that was it or not reports are that about 1300 Democrats voted in the contest.  Clinton took about 60% to Sanders 40%.  Of the seven pledged delegates at issue in the contest, Clinton won 4, Sanders 3.  Clinton had already secured the support of all five superdelegates from Guam.  Therefore, she should get a total of nine votes from the territory on the first ballot.

Neither candidate visited Guam, nor did anyone seem to spend much money there.  With so few delegates at stake, it was not worth the money for either campaign to work hard and perhaps get one more delegate.

Clinton's victory increases her delegate lead by one.  That hardly seems to matter at this point. The win does ensure that Sanders will not get "X wins in a row" after his Indiana victory.  Otherwise, with Clinton facing hostile voters in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon over the next two weeks, Sanders might have started another winning streak with Indiana.

Clinton's victory also means Sanders cannot pursue his long shot plan to convince superdelegates to switch to him if he wins their jurisdiction.  That was not likely to happen anyway, but Guam superdelegates can at least say the voters have reinforced their decision to support Clinton.  At this stage, even if Sanders wins 100% of the remaining pledged delegates, he still loses unless he can also convince superdelegates to change sides.

I was surprised that today (Monday afternoon) two days after the voting took place, most news organizations had not even bothered to update the results on their web sites.  With so many contests updated as the count went on minute by minute, one would think they could at least publish the final results relatively soon after they were available.

Most media organizations are turning to the Clinton-Trump contest that seems inevitable now.  Remaining primary outcomes will not change that result.

That said, I will continue to post and comment on the results here, even while I start to join in the general election punditry as well.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The May Primary Calendar.

With the Republican race now uncontested and the Democratic race all but over, the remaining contests have become less interesting.  Candidates will start talking more about their general election opponents and possibly consider their Vice Presidential running mates.  Still, with neither front runner holding a majority of delegates yet, the remaining races cannot be taken for granted completely.  Candidates must continue to address the remaining contests and collect their delegates.

Guam, Sat. May 7

This Saturday is Guam's Democratic Primary.  The Republicans had their contest weeks ago, selecting unbound delegates who added to no one's count.

I have seen no polls for Guam.  In 2008 the territory handed a close victory Barack Obama by less than a point, and with fewer than 5000 people voting.  In 2012, an incumbent Obama one only 58% of the vote, with the remainder uncommitted.  Therefore, the smart money is on a close election result this year as well.  With a mere 12 delegates up for grabs, if one candidate gets 7 or 8 and the other gets 4 or 5, it will be barely noticeable.  Therefore, both Democratic candidates are not terribly focused on this contest far away across the Pacific Ocean.

Nebraska & West Virginia, Tue. May 10

Nebraska and West Virginia both hold closed Republican primaries next Tuesday.   With Trump now uncontested, he should have no trouble taking Nebraska's 36 delegates and West Virginia's 34.  Assuming he wins all 70, he should be about 115 votes short of his inevitable delegate majority.

On the Democratic side, Hillary is again on the rope thanks to her a few weeks ago about putting lots of coal miners out of work.  Rather than worry about losing the State, Clinton should be more concerned about being lynched if caught in the State by locals.  Expect these conservative Democrats to give the Socialist Sanders a solid victory, perhaps by 20 points.  Again, not enough to threaten Clinton's majority, but another embarrassing defeat for her campaign.

Kentucky & Oregon, Tue. May 17

Kentucky holds its Democratic Primary on May 17.  Hillary has tended to do well in conservative states.  However, her comments about coal miners has pretty much handed the contest to Sanders, aka, anyone but Hillary.  This very conservative State will vote for the Socialist, probably by double digits.  Sanders will chalk up another victory and take a majority of the 61 delegates.  But Hillary will take a sizable minority share of them and creep ever closer to her inevitable delegate majority.

Oregon also holds its primary for both parties.  This liberal enclave is somewhere that Sanders is likely to do well, not just as the anti-Clinton but because voters actually like his socialist policies.  I have not seen any polls for Oregon, but expect a Sanders double digit victory, taking the bulk of the 73 delegates.  Again, it is too little too late to derail Clinton's ultimate victory.  It will, however, contribute to the perception that she is not popular, even within her own party and has a great deal of work to do.

On the Republican side, Oregon is a more liberal state where Kasich had hoped to do well.  Trump however, was looking for a win even before his opponents capitulated. Oregon awards its 28 delegates proportionally.  It is possible that some voters may vote for opponents who are still on the ballot. Trump may not win all of the delegates even without active campaigns against him.  This contest will be worth watching only to see how big Trump's victory will be, and whether he can continue to turn out large and enthusiastic crowds as the presumptive nominee rather than an outside challenger.

Washington Tue. May 24

A week later, we will have our final May contest in Washington State, the Republican primary. Again, not much of a contest since Trump anymore as Trump continues to acquire his needed delegate majority.  There are 44 proportional delegates up for grabs.  Even assuming Trump wins all of then, not guaranteed, he will still be about 40 votes short of a majority.

Looking Ahead to June:

There are a couple of minor caucuses for Democrats on the first weekend in June (Virgin Island and Puerto Rico).  But all eyes are on June 7, when California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and both Dakotas all hold contests.  It will likely be on this date that both Clinton and Trump officially obtain their delegate majorities.  After that, only DC holds its Democratic primary a week later, when no one will care.  That will bring the primary season to its official end.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Kasich Quits

As the last man standing John Kasich has finally decided to suspend his campaign for President. Kasich kept hoping that voters would tire of Trump and Cruz, and that as the last man standing he might somehow snatch the nomination.

The polls, however, show no hope of any such thing happening.  With fewer delegates than former candidates Cruz and Rubio, the joke going around was that Kasich was running fourth in a two person race.

With Cruz's withdraw the day before some retained hope that the anti-trump focus would turn to Kasich finally.  Trump, however, has been polling above 50% even with two opponents.  This meant that Kasich was likely to face one humiliating defeat after another in the remaining contests.

With Kasich's withdraw, the Republican party has finally accepted that Donald Trump will be the party's nominee.  Trump now must unit a fractured Republican party and convince the establishment that he will not tank himself along with the congressional candidates in November.  It will be one of the more interesting general election pivots if he can pull of such a feat.

One expects Trump will not focus on himself and his own agenda, but rather on Hillary Clinton and attacking her.  Trump's strongest card at this point is Clinton's negative polling numbers.  Similarly, Clinton is likely to go negative on Trump early and often.  Expect a highly bitter and negative general election.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cruz Quits

In my last post, I went out on a limb and predicted Ted Cruz might defy the polls and win an upset victory in Indiana.  Perhaps that was just wishful thinking as I like the idea of keeping the competition going a little longer.  Donald Trump, however, won the contest by a good 20 points, crushing his two opponents.

More significantly, in light of his loss, Ted Cruz has decided to end his campaign for the Presidency. He realized that Indiana was one of the most favorable States for him left on the calendar.  If he could not win there, he was likely looking at continued losses for the rest of the primary season.

John Kasich still has not quit.  But since he still has fewer delegates than Marco Rubio, who dropped out after Super Tuesday, no one takes his candidacy seriously at this point.  It seems that Republicans have accepted that Trump will be the nominee and want the intra-party fighting to stop.  With Cruz out, there does not appear to be any realistic option that would prevent Trump from obtaining the Republican nomination.

Trump now has 1047 delegates.  He needs only 190 of the remaining 520 still available.  Unless something completely unexpected and game changing happens, he should be able to obtain those delegates before the convention.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton lost in Indiana.  Bernie Sanders pulled out a five point victory.  Voters on the Democratic side clearly are not ready to end their intra-party fighting.  That said, any race at this point that Sanders fails to win by at least 50 points means that his chances of pulling ahead of Clinton only slip farther away.

Including Super delegates, Clinton has 2202 delegates, meaning she needs less than 200 of the remaining 1163 to obtain a majority.  Given the proportional distribution of delegates, winning only 20% of the voters in each of the remaining States will still hand Clinton her majority.

Trump and Clinton will be the major party nominees.  They say we get the leaders we deserve.  I wonder what we did to deserve this.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Indiana Primary

Indiana gets is moment of attention this week as candidates head into the Primary on May 3.  Indiana is an interesting State.  It has always been much more conservative than the rest of the mid-west.  Unlike its neighbors, Indiana received its original population from the south, as they moved up the Ohio River.

Republicans:

Pundits have proclaimed Indiana a "must win" for Ted Cruz.  With the last half dozen primaries in States were Cruz was never expected to do well, the highly conservative and deeply Republican Indiana should be fertile territory for Cruz.  Even John Kasich has agreed not to campaign there, in order to give Cruz a better shot at this winner take all State with 57 delegates.

That said, Donald Trump consistently beats Cruz in most polls, though usually by single digits. Indiana has a open Primary, meaning independents can vote.  This tends to favor Trump over Cruz.

With every delegate at issue, Indiana provides another opportunity either for Trump to continue the line that he is inevitable at this point, or for Cruz to show there is still strong opposition to the party's front runner.  Although the polls still favor Trump, I think Cruz has a good chance here.  If he cannot win in Indiana, the rest of the primary calendar looks much harder for him.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say Cruz pulls off a surprise win in Indiana.

Democrats:

Hillary Clinton also maintains a single digit lead in most polls.  Indiana does not have a large number of minorities, who tend to favor Clinton over Sanders.  But its Democrats tend to be more moderate than the typical Sanders supporter.  Clinton should eke out a win here.

In then end though, because Democrats have a proportional award of the 92 delegates available,  a win by a few points by one or the other candidate really matters little.  I would only affect a small number of delegates awarded.  Because Sanders needs overwhelming victories in every single remaining contest, even a close win here only reduces Sanders' already minute chance of victory at the Convention.  That said, he will likely not even get that.  Expect a Clinton victory.